There are many reasons to choose an open-face crash helmet over a full-face model. The most obvious are comfort and a greater sense of freedom. They offer a cool and less claustrophobic experience giving you more of a connection with the open surroundings.
Open-face crash helmet designs date back over 100 years. Today’s models are both advanced and as safe as manufacturers can make them.
Value and Style
For those wishing for a more ‘all-in-one’ option, I would go for the Caberg Riviera V4 Sway
This is especially appealing for riders switching between full-face helmets which also have built-in visors and peaks. Overall a lot of helmet for the money.
Open Face Helmet Reviews
Bell Custom 500
Bell began manufacturing its classic 500 helmets in 1954 and today produces a range of models for the full spectrum of motorcycle riders.
The Bell Custom 500’s classic appearance captures that era beautifully but offers many protective properties of the 21st century. Why have a retro or throwback lookalike when you can buy the real thing from the original company?
Whilst not the cheapest, the 500 provides excellent value with luxuries such as custom suede interior lining and composite fibreglass construction. The external studs allow you to add different accessories, such as visors and peaks.
Are they good enough? Motoring legends Steve McQueen and Mike Hailwood thought so.
- Leather D-ring pull tab
- Matt black quality finish
- Padded chin strap
- Five year warranty
- More expensive than other models
Caberg Riviera V4 Sway
A sharp break away from the classic retro-styled open-face helmet is the Caberg Riviera Sway model. With the appearance of a fighter pilot’s helmet, its extra features help close the gap between open-face and full-face designs.
Caberg’s Riviera V4 Sway is suitable for city and urban use. The wide surrounding anti-scratch visor provides nearly the same wind protection as a full-face model for longer and more challenging distances. The sun visor is easy to operate manually.
The strapping is wide and sturdy and offers a quick release mechanism. It is priced about mid-range but still good value for money.
- Removable and washable sanitized lining
- Internal air circulation
- Rain protection rims
- Quick release anti-scratch visor
- Available in matt black, white or fluo
- Lightweight design has slightly less padding than other models
Nolan N21 Visor Classic
Almost in the ‘fighter pilot’ style is the Nolan N21, with a sun visor and a clear pull-down visor as standard. Each is removable for cleaning.
The VPS (Vision Protection System) sunscreen vanishes into the polycarbonate shell but can be easily activated. It is moulded out of SABIC Innovative Plastics Lexan OQ and is scratch-resistant and fog-resistant treated.
The Nolan 21’s Clima Comfort interior fabric is both moisture-wicking and breathable. A selection of colours is available for the inner padding and shell edges.
Another mid-range priced helmet with plenty of standard accessories, the Nolan 21, represents good value and protection.
- ClimaComfort interior padding
- Quick release Microlock retention system
- Helmet lock ring
- Gloss finish
- Mix of modern and vintage appearance
- Cheaper models available but still good value
The Scorpion Exo-Belfast is the helmet you’d expect to see on a stormtrooper’s head in a dystopian sci-fi movie. That kind of protection, of course, makes it ideal for motorcycle riding. Oddly, the manufacturers describe it as vintage and retro-styled.
The advanced polycarbonate shell is significantly shorter than our other featured models, but the interior padding and strapping aren’t. The straps are thicker and wider and offer good protection.
The double density lining protrudes below the shell rims continuing to shield the rider’s ears and cheek area where the straps originate. The lining pads are also removable for cleaning.
The tinted internal sun visor is manually retractable, and the peak is removable.
- Front vents
- Reflective strip on rear of external lining
- 3 year warranty
- Micrometric retention system
- Comes with a textile carrying/storage bag
- Doesn’t have a full face pull down visor
For nearly a third of the price of the Bell 500, you can buy a similar-looking model from Duchinni.
The D501 is a peaked retro open-face helmet with the added feature of a pull-down internal sun visor.
It also has a convenient seat-belt-styled quick-release chinstrap to keep the helmet securely in place. This is important in open-face models where the wind resistance may shift the helmet more easily.
If you find drivers giving you a wide berth, it’s probably because the D501 has a ‘police’ look about it and is also reminiscent of those worn by the famous White Helmet motorcycle display team.
You can also fit external shield and visor accessories on the shell-mounted studs.
- Synthetic ABS with UV protection
- Fully removable and washable high quality textile lining
- Anti-scratch pull down internal sun visor
- Two shell sizes
- Made of plastics not fibreglass like its more expensive competitors
- Cheaper price suggests a shorter life span than other models
Safety vs Comfort
Studies show that 35% of all motorcycle accidents involved an impact to the chin bar area. Riders can lessen this risk by choosing open-face models with strong chin straps and protectors.
Consider the riding you’ll be doing. Will you be commuting at a snail’s pace through busy cities or riding along sunny country roads in the breeze? Urban and commuting journeys generally mean slower speeds. You will need more protection for faster riding, and a full-face helmet may be more suitable.
Also consider the heat, the cold, the rain and the wind.
Accessories can play an essential part in comfort and safety so think about your eyesight and the dietary properties of whatever insects might fly into your mouth!
They can only compensate so far for a full face so avoid kidding yourself that a padded chin-piece is as good as a strip of fibreglass or Kevlar that would completely cover your jaw.
The safety versus comfort argument, however, shouldn’t deter a rider from considering the many high-quality and well-functioning open-face models on the market today.
Read our in-depth motorcycle helmet buyers guide.
Open-face helmets are easier to put on than full-face models – one of the reasons people buy them. Often called a ‘three quarter’ helmet because coverage is 75% of your head and face.
Like any helmet, the fit should be snug but not too tight; that compression will lead to discomfort during the ride. Many helmets come with one or more shell sizes (the size of the hard outer shell encasement). The internal size may change with padding.
Read more about motorcycle helmet sizing.
It’s always best to try them on but make an allowance if you have long, thick hair or wear a head scarf as these may alter over time.
The open-face helmet protects any other; however, the face and chin area remains exposed, of course.
One either has to accept the risk or use accessories to reduce it.
Strap on goggles for the eyes and nose, and a small scarf or bandana will prevent wind, insects and rain from hitting the face.
Some models have a thick padded chin protector built into the strap, while others have full-face pull-down visors or a half-length shaded visor.
Much of the construction is plastic, but some of the more expensive models are fibreglass or Kevlar.
The type of visors and neck coverage differ between models. Some have studs across the front section into which you can add clip-on peaked visors.
Others have different types of sun shading or clear visors. These may only cover the eyes or the whole of the face area.
Lining may be removable, washable and come in different textures and colours.
Consider also how you may wear glasses or sunglasses. One of the advantages of open-face helmets is that most models allow you to don them without removing your specs.